You left your watch in your room three days ago, but you know what time it is. The dappled glare gently withdrawing into a glow on the sandy approach to your villa gave a hint. But the activity on the beach leaves you in no doubt.
Guests and residents alike gather at the edge of your 9 acre home – a heart-shaped island deep in the bosom of the Maldives – to offer daily tribute to the giant stingrays who reside offshore.
It’s 5pm on Vivanta Coral Reef.
With the oldest of the rays having taken part in the sandy soiree for as long as the Vivanta resort has been in residence, the name – derived from the french word for those fond of social eating – could easily have been inspired by these gliding gluttons.
Guests ready themselves with fish as the rays glide in from below while uninvited herons glide in from above. Reserved reef sharks and jackfish hang back as the previously-majestic rays slurp along the beach before flapping their way back out into the surf.
Sitting on the western rim of Kaafu Atoll, Coral Reef resort is just a stone’s throw away from the international airport – ten minutes by sea-plane. Alternatively, visitors can be skimmed across the lagoon with a 45-minute speedboat ride.
Having traversed the atoll, the resort stretches out its hand with a reception area perched over the reef. From here, you are escorted to your villa – one of 62 dotted along the island’s sandy streets and sunny shoreline.
Helpful maps – literally set in stone – will guide you to around the treasure island. Coral by name and nature, the resort exudes confidence and experience. The stone facades give the sense of well-established island settlement; exotic markings on the exterior walls could be mistaken for an ancient script, while sun motifs atop the villas leave no doubt as to the object of worship.
This outer image is belied only by the 5-star luxury found within – with international cuisine and gym facilities (and twelve types of pillow) something no previous inhabitants of the island have experienced.
Past visitors to the island are not forgotten, with former guests having planted trees for one another. Elsewhere, you can see subtle tributes to the toddy-tappers who once sailed across the lagoon to cultivate the coconut trees on what was then called Hembadhu island.
News from distant continents can be sent to your room, a reminder of what you’re (not) missing. But the resort’s own paper, ‘The Coral Daily’, is essential reading: ‘BREAKING NEWS – Another 33 degree Day’, ‘Spa Treatments Available at the Jiva Spa’….glorious boilerplate.
Outside the beach villas, hammocks mingle casually with the trees while the envious ocean leans in to see if it is being talked about. Sleepy bats in the branches remain in their twilight trance while the herons only want to discuss fish.
In the evening, bon vivants will be spoilt for choice with cuisine from South America, Europe and across Asia all having acclimatised well to island life. On the beach, by the pool, or in the relaxing surrounds of the Latitude restaurant – the choice is yours.
Heading out to the reef in the morning, dressed in your finest snorkel gear, the party has already started. Here you can meet a multicultural medley of marine life feasting on the coral. Trigger-, parrot-, butterfly-, squirrel-, and surgeon-fish regularly make the scene.
Meanwhile, the clouds stalk the islands in search of substantial land on which to gatecrash. Clouds and snorkellers overhead cause timid guests and fish to seek shelter. But after a brief shower the dark sky move on from the small school of islands, taking a little of the tropical heat with it.
Inclusive of the island’s nature, Vivanta Coral Reef is a resort completely at ease with itself and its tropical surroundings – the epitome of island luxury.
Returning you your villa, you still can’t find your watch…but the vivanta rays are back on the beach.